Hometown internship offers a world of opportunity for motivated student

Erica Wilson's second summer internship with an international building products company in her hometown of Leesburg, Virginia, has provided a world of opportunity. Credit: Photo ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

(Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles about students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For one Penn State student crafting a career in public relations, an internship with a building materials company has been a valuable experience.

Erica Wilson, a rising junior, returned to REHAU Window and Door Systems this summer and has found numerous opportunities to put her classroom experience into practice. She also has found a bit more opportunity while completing her second consecutive summer internship with the global company whose U.S. headquarters are in Leesburg, Virginia.

“It’s a chance to use a lot of skills from my classes. For example, I’m more aware of Associated Press style and consistency with my writing, and I took COMM 370, the introductory public relations class, and in a lot of ways that applies to marketing,” Wilson said. “It’s been useful to make those connections.

“It’s been a great opportunity to see what corporate communications and marketing look like. Plus, they keep me challenged and involved.”

As a marketing intern, her responsibilities focus on maintaining relationships with the company’s clients and reaching out to potential customers. That includes creating content for social media and other channels, planning communications approaches, and promoting products.

Advancement opportunities for some full-time employees in the marketing division opened up additional duties for Wilson this summer.

“My boss asked me to sit in on a meeting with some clients — we’re business to business, mostly commercial projects, so our clients are architects and contractors. Learning more about them, and communicating with them, has made me better,” she said. “It’s given me an understanding of all the different audiences that exist and ways to communicate with them.”

Last summer, Wilson served as an intern in the company’s communications and human resources divisions and her work was mostly for an internal audience. She conducted research on wellness programs, did a lot of writing, and worked on updating the company’s website.

She said software and support available to Penn State students, such as Adobe Creative Suite, helped her contribute right away with important skill sets.

The mix of duties the past two summers has given her a well-rounded look at a company that has 20,000 employees worldwide with a growing U.S. footprint. She understands REHAU’s five divisions and its many products. She has learned about doors and windows as well as outdoor furniture, radiant heating and more.

Wilson, an advertising/public relations major who is also completing a psychology major with minors in French and global and international studies, has embraced the variety of experiences her internships the past two summers have provided. The convenience of an internship in her hometown with an international company that provides real-life challenges has been an appreciated combination.

“After my freshman year, I was just taking a chance, trying to find something,” she said. “My dad knows construction pretty well and I’ve paid attention to that. He encouraged me to give it shot. Then, after it went well and there was a different but similar chance this summer, it made sense. It’s been a great experience, and interacting with people in different countries has been great, too.”

She’s one of nine interns with the company this summer, and the only one back for a second year. Her internship continues until Aug. 2. She plans to join her family on vacation after that and then head back to campus to continue her studies.

Last Updated June 02, 2021